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VERDICT: Bury 0 Mansfield 0
CARETAKER boss Ronnie Jepson was critical of the spoiling tactics employed by opposite number Paul Cox as Bury failed to end their winless and goalless streak against the 10 men of Mansfield.
Stags defender John Dempster and manager Cox were both sent off – Dempster for a wild lunge on Shaun Harrad on the hour mark and Cox following a verbal altercation with the referee in stoppage time.
Yet, despite laying siege to the Mansfield penalty area in the closing stages, the Shakers failed to score for the fourth consecutive match and to win for the ninth game in a row.
But Jepson refused to lay the blame on his own players, instead directing his anger at Cox and Mansfield’s his players.
“It was ugly. They (Mansfield) just want to turn you, look for set pieces and slow the game down so you can’t get any tempo going,” said Jepson.
“We were on at the referee to try to get the game going. It was like a testimonial at times because of the pace they were going at.
“It was ridiculous and everybody gets frustrated. The time-wasting didn’t make for a great spectacle. I wouldn’t have minded if it was just at the end of the game but it was throughout.”
It was fair to say Mansfield slowed the game down in the final 30 minutes, but their direct, robust style of play had Bury on the back foot for much of the first half.
Nottingham Forest loanee Jack Blake was the first to trouble Bury keeper Brian Jensen, forcing the big Dane to tip his low shot round the far post in the 14th minute.
The visitors’ burly front pairing of Oliver Palmer and Matt Rhead were also a handful for the Shakers defence.
When Jensen struck an attempted clearance against centre-back Nathan Cameron under pressure from Palmer, the Stags forward pounced on the loose ball to cross for Rhead, who headed just wide at the back post.
But Bury slowly found their feet in damp, difficult conditions.
Tom Soares’ 25th-minute shot on the stretch flew over the bar and captain Andy Procter rifled a 20-yard drive straight at Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott.
Both sides could easily have gone into the break in front, but for decent saves by Jensen and Marriott in the final minutes of the half.
First Jensen stood tall to block Rhead’s shot, then Marriott produced an acrobatic stop to keep out a crisply struck, close-range volley from Harrad that looked destined for the bottom corner.
After a quiet opening to the second half, the game erupted on the hour when Dempster was given his marching orders for a two-footed tackle on Harrad.
It sparked a melee that threatened to boil over before referee Andy Haines regained control, booking Bury's Chris Sedgwick for his part in the aftermath.
The visitors were clearly rattled by the red card, and Cox spent the rest of the match remonstrating at every decision from the touchline.
It looked as if the Shakers might force a breakthrough, with second half substitute Danny Mayor heading over from six yards in the 68th minute.
But the Mansfield players quickly regrouped and were happy to sit back and soak up the waves of Bury pressure.
Soares tested the Stags keeper with two fierce 30-yard shots, while Danny Hylton headed a decent chance over on his home debut.
A bad-tempered finale was heightened when Cox was sent to the stands, almost causing a flashpoint as Bury fans rushed to confront him before stewards stepped in.
And, after the Stags held out for the seven minutes of time added on, the sense of frustration created by another goalless night at Gigg Lane was palpable.
“I would just like to see one come off somebody’s knee, or an own goal or anything,” Jepson said, desperate for a goal of any description.
“I feel for the lads. I feel for the punters as well. I know they and the chairman want a result. Everyone at the football club wants a result.
“But in terms of effort, you can’t fault the lads. Overall, they put in a great shift again, they just need to be a bit more clinical.”
BURY: Jensen 8; Beeley 8, Cameron 6, Edjenguele 7, Mustoe 6; Sedgwick 7 (Forrester 6 76), Procter 7, Miller 6 (Mayor 7 45), Soares 8; Hylton 7, Harrad 7. Not used: Hinds, Holden, Rooney, Charles-Cook, Walker.
MANSFIELD: Marriott; Beevers, Dempster, Riley (Poku 72), Jennings; Clucas, McGuire, Blake, Daniel; Palmer (Sutton 64), Rhead (Andrew 84). Not used: Murtagh, Stevenson, Hutchinson, Meikle.
Yellow cards: Bury – Sedgwick 61; Mansfield – Jennings 86.
Red card: Mansfield – Dempster 61.
Referee: Andy Haines (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 2,518 (351 visiting).
Star man: Tom Soares – His performances have not always been up to scratch in a season dogged by niggling injuries and a rumoured fall-out with former boss Kevin Blackwell. Yet he was back to his old self, putting in some powerful runs and producing a handful of stinging shots. Moved inside as cover for the injured Tommy Miller in the second half and could well keep that spot for Saturday’s trip to Wycombe.
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